What’s the Best Nintendo Switch Controller for Me?
Nintendo has sold over 111 million Switch consoles worldwide, but when it comes to controllers, there’s only a handful—no pun intended—worth your time. So, to make the most of your gaming experience, check out our list of the best Nintendo Switch controllers, whether you’re a competitive esports gamer or a casual gamer who loves party games.
Which consoles work with which Nintendo Switch controllers?
Nintendo sells three consoles with the Switch brand: the Nintendo Switch Lite, the original Nintendo Switch and the Nintendo Switch OLED Model. The original and OLED models are designed to be played at home with a TV or anywhere as handhelds. They come with a couple of controllers, or Joy-Cons (see next section). The Nintendo Switch Lite can only be used as a portable console; it won’t dock to your TV. It has everything you need out of the box to play alone, but no separate controllers. If you want to have multiple people play on the same Switch Lite console, you’ll need to buy wireless controllers. Wireless Nintendo Switch controllers are compatible with all three systems.
For party games and casual gamers: Joy-Cons and grips
The Nintendo Switch and Nintendo Switch OLED Model both come with two Joy-Cons out of the box—the teeny remotes that come in a variety of fun colors. They typically run well under $100 a pair, and some games require them, like “Super Mario Party.” Key features: They’re wireless, you can charge them by attaching them to the Switch, they rumble and they’re nice to have on hand for party games like “Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.” They’re also super easy to pair with the system and don’t require any additional hardware. That said, they’re prone to wear and tear, though Nintendo has a repair program through which the company will fix faulty Joy-Cons, usually for free.
While Joy-Cons are great when you need controllers for multiple players for quick games (the Switch supports up to eight controllers), they can cause cramping for people with larger hands. This is where grips come in: Rather than buying additional controllers, you can buy these inexpensive peripherals to improve the ergonomics of your Joy-Cons. Grips come in two main varieties: single and dual Joy-Con. Single grips improve the experience when you’re holding one Joy-Con. Dual Joy-Con grips, like this one from Nintendo, allow you to convert two Joy-Cons into one controller.
Joy-Cons enable multiplayer right out of the box. Overall, Joy-Cons are easy to use and can grow as part of your collection over time.
For most gamers: Nintendo Switch Pro Controller
The Nintendo Switch Pro Controller is the gold standard in wireless controllers. Pro Controllers run about $70 each, and they feel great in hand, hefty but not heavy, and enable long play sessions. They’re also, besides Joy-Cons, some of the only controllers available with HD Rumble, which vibrates precisely in response to in-game events. If you depend on this feature and don’t want to connect your controller to your console with a wire, the Pro Controller is the way to go.
For the hardcore: 8BitDo Pro 2
8BitDo’s Pro 2 controller features remappable bottom buttons, which are great for games that require your thumbs on the analog sticks at all times. The Verge loved the feature and notes it’s especially useful in multiplayer games that require moving and aiming simultaneously. The Pro 2 supports vibration, though not the fine-tuned HD Rumble of Nintendo’s own controllers. At about 20 bucks less than the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller, the Pro 2 provides a nice compromise of functionality and price. This is the best controller for people who require mappable buttons or don’t want to spring for the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller.
As a backup: PowerA Enhanced Wireless Controller
If the Pro 2 isn’t available, you want fun designs or you catch it on sale, the PowerA Enhanced Wireless Controller for Nintendo Switch is a good alternative. A pro-style controller with faceplates ranging from Pokémon to Cuphead, it features mappable buttons on its underside. The PowerA doesn’t support NFC or rumbling, but it does support motion control, so like the other wireless controllers on this list, it’s compatible with games that require tilting or moving your controller. CNet reports that PowerA’s controllers are now rechargeable after formerly requiring AA batteries, so make sure you look for the current model.
Best budget Switch controller: a wired one
You already know controllers are pricey. These small devices packed with loads of technology and moving parts take a beating, from hard play to accidents like drops and spills. For these reasons, it’s generally worth spending a bit more on your controllers if you can afford it, as these tend to sport higher build quality. That said, if you need something inexpensive or don’t want to worry about battery life, look for wires.
The PowerA Wired Controller runs under 25 bucks and connects to any of the three USB 2.0 ports on your Switch dock. You’ll have to stretch a cable across the room, and if you have more than three players, you’ll need a USB hub (see requirements here). And you can’t use wired controllers with the Nintendo Switch Lite at all.
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Product features may have changed and are subject to change.